It’s been 157 years since The Laws of the Game were drafted for soccer (association football) in London to diminish violence on the field but still the game continues to be considered a violent sport.
So it came as no surprise when the Mexican Referees Association last weekend decided to deprive the Mexican Soccer League’s week 10 2017 tourney of their services given a dispute over regulations and their authority on the turf. The motive: player rage on the field against their decisions and what’s considered unwarranted penalties for referee offending players. The result was a weekend without professional soccer.
The reason why the Mexican referees went on a one weekend strike was because they considered the Mexican Soccer Federation to have fallen short on sanctioning two referee offending players with suspensions.
One player, Paraguayan Pablo Aguilar of America Football Club got a 10 week suspension for a near head-butt for a call the referee made on a violent slide. The refs were outraged at the “soft sanction” imposed by the Federation and demanded Aguilar be sanctioned a full year, fulfilling what the regulations call for.
Another player, Enrique Triverio of Toluca, got slapped with an eight week suspension for hacking a player (sliding with the spikes up front), breaking his leg. They considered this sanction to be correct as it was deemed “accidental” and lacking of evil intent in the soccer action.
The real question is how much is politics and how much is sport.
To begin with, the refs announced through a tweet last Friday that “The Mexican Referees Association will not be present during Week 10 of the MX League, fighting for Respect Within the Playing Field.”
The suspension of the Friday night game between Veracruz and Puebla teams came as a bucket of ice-cold Gatorade to the Mexican Soccer Federation (FMF) which immediately summoned an emergency meeting at its Mexico City headquarters.
The FMF is made up by team owners and is the soccer governing body in the nation. It depends directly on the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), which is the worldwide umbrella organization overseeing tournaments and leagues. It only intervenes when conflicts get out of hand. The current president is Decio de María, who’s been part of the governing body for over 15 years.
The referees are threatening to take their “lack of security” conflict to FIFA, but they have not gotten that far yet. Referees are considered an integral part of the sport and FIFA does have a committee to settle disputes such as this.
Rumor has it that all the club owners are “irritated” by the performance at the helm of the FMF by Decio de María, as this conflict is hitting them directly in the pocket. Income losses for the week 10 suspension for the 18 league clubs is loosely put at $3 million. Ouch!
In their meeting Friday they blasted De María for not handling the “referee conflict correctly” and letting it get out of hand in an action that was detrimental to the whole FMF.
The referees’ “petitions” to the FMF are that players Aguilar and Triverio be punished accordingly with a one year suspension, that the Referees Commission president Hector González Iñárritu be fired and replaced with a new president and that referee Fernando Guerrero be cast out of the FMF because “he does not belong to the Mexican Referees Association.”
In short, what the refs really want is that they be respected as the only authority on the field and that business executives from the FMF do not influence their decisions and that sanctions be applied by the FIFA refereeing book.
And that players accept their decisions, whether right or wrong. In soccer, television replay is not allowed by The Law of the Game, which has turned into a source of constant controversy because, as is in this case, many argue that player Paul Aguilar never head-butted the ref and the video does need revising.
But team owners admit to complying with these demands begrudgingly. Aztec Television mogul and owner of teams Atlas and Morelia, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, could not help but tweet letting them know that they can’t just cancel games out of nowhere, as was done in this case. He didn’t say it, but reminded them that at the end of the game they are employees performing a job:
“Players and referees have a very clear role (and very well paid too) in soccer. They just can’t sequester the Mexican public at will. Unacceptable!”. In a second Twitter tantrum Salinas Pliego added: “Bad for aggressive players. Back for referees who threaten. The fans put their trust in both, and now, they betray it.”
Late Monday the Mexican Soccer Federation Appeals Committee decided to abide by the demand of the referees that players Paul Aguilar and Enrique Triverio be sanctioned with a one year ban from playing professional soccer anywhere in the world.
“This is a precedent so that order and respect be what rules play on the field. The committee’s decision to apply the sanctions is by the book and with this, it is the fans that come out winners.”
The games for week 11 of play are slated to return this coming weekend and week 10 play will be held at a later date.